Sharapova scrapes home in error-strewn opener

Maria Sharapova added "La-la Land", the home of unforced errors, to her list of places to avoid after narrowly averting defeat in the opening round at the US Open here.

Maria Sharapova added "La-la Land", the home of unforced errors, to her list of places to avoid after narrowly averting defeat in the opening round at the US Open here.

The 17-year-old Wimbledon champion admitted that she was "totally out of it at times" in her match against Laura Granville, of Chicago, whose eagerness to trip the new princess of the courts typified the attitude less glamorous players have adopted towards her.

Sharapova, whose 44 mistimed shots emboldened Granville to the point of leading 5-4 on serve in the final set, managed to extricate herself by winning 12 of the concluding 14 points.

Having prevailed, 6-3, 5-7, 7-5, after two hours and nine minutes under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium, the Russian seventh seed will now play the 19-year-old Jelena Jankovic from Belgrade, a fellow student at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida.

Sharapova needs to assert herself before she finds the more established players giving her menacing looks from the opposite side of the net.

Justine Henin-Hardenne, the defending champion, Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport, the in-form player in the women's game, are in Sharapova's half of the draw. And yesterday, Serena Williams and Amélie Mauresmo advanced to the third round in the other half.

When not making mistakes against Granville, a 23-year-old prepared to engage in lengthy, hard-hitting rallies, Sharapova was failing to convert chances. She had three break points at 3-2 in the first set before making a decisive move in the eighth game with a craftily sliced forehand.

Sharapova then suffered the consequences of tame shots that allowed Granville to escape from 40-0 down at 1-1 in the second set, netting a forehand on the second set point at 5-6 after committing a double fault at deuce.

If that were not warning enough, Sharapova allowed her mind to idle after breaking in the opening game of the final set. Double-faults on the first two points of the next game beckoned Granville back into the action, and at 1-1 Sharapova hit a forehand wide to squander yet another break point.

To her credit, Sharapova roused herself and finished emphatically, breaking to love for 6-5 and conceding only one point, albeit her eighth double-fault, in serving out the match.

As a Wimbledon champion with the face of an angel and the body of a model, Sharapova has discovered that few allowances will be made for inexperience and that her results will be scrutinised as closely as her hemline.

Her advisers have sensibly schooled her to adapt Kiplingesque philosophy to the needs of the moment; lines such as "I don't want to make a big tragedy if I don't win". Others are likely to do that for her.

Sharapova is still young enough, however, to be able to embrace expectation as a friend rather than a foe. "I love expectations," she said. "I think that's part of the game, and that's why I play. There's a lot more things than the tennis. There are the pressures, the nerves, a night match on Arthur Ashe Stadium. You don't just go out there and hit ball after ball, you know. You have a brain, and your brain thinks hard."

She also enjoys the big stage: "There's a vibe you get. It's a great feeling to have the people interact with what you're doing, to let you know that this is a big tournament."

Most important, she accepts that her game is incomplete. "Consistency is one of the crucial things," she said. "And also the strength and endurance, the physical part of the game. On the grass, the points are a lot shorter. On the hard courts, obviously, they are going to be very long, and it's a lot tougher on my body as well.

"I'm not so developed yet that I can handle these very long matches," she admitted. "I am getting better, and I know that this is something I have to work on. But these things don't happen over night, so that all of a sudden you wake up and you're Superman."

Mark Philippoussis certainly did not feel like a man of steel yesterday. The Australian's catalogue of misfortunes continued when a hip injury caused the Australian to retire when 4-1 down in the fifth set of his opening match against Nikolay Davydenko, of Russia.

In contrast, Philippoussis' compatriot Lleyton Hewitt, the fourth seed, looked in fine shape as he brought Wayne Ferreira's record 56th consecutive appearance in a Grand Slam to a halt.

Hewitt, the 2001 champion, defeated the 32-year-old South African, 6-1, 7-5, 6-4, after an hour and 42 minutes. "I think Lleyton's got his game back again," Ferreira said.

Gustavo Kuerten has not got his game back, however. The Brazilian former world No 1, three times a French Open champion, lost to the 353rd ranked Kristian Pless, of Germany, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6.

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests